Why is Bordeaux considered the ultimate luxury brand in the world of wine? Why did the Chinese market suddenly start buying Bordeaux wines in the 1980s and 90s? Why does Bordeaux in particular suit the ancient Chinese culture of prestigious gift-giving versus other expensive wines? How does the demand for Bordeaux in China affect both the prices you pay and the styles you drink?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Suzanne Mustacich, author of Thirsty Dragon: China’s Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the World’s Best Wines.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
- What fascinated Suzanne about the Chinese wine market?
- Can you see a similar effect in other industries where China has become a key player?
- What can you learn about the differences in wine and business culture between China and Bordeaux?
- What does a bottle of Bordeaux wine go through before it gets to you?
- Why was Bordeaux perfectly positioned for the young Chinese market?
- How do top brands like Bordeaux draw you in?
- Why is wine the perfect product for the aspirational middle class?
- Which facts about the China-Bordeaux wine economy might surprise you?
- Why is it much more expensive for you to be a wine aficionado in Hong Kong than elsewhere?
- Was there a connection between the US recession and increased interest in the Chinese market from Bordeaux?
- How have US buying habits changed in relation to high-end Bordeaux wines?
- How do Government changes impact on the demand for wine in China?
- What changes can you see in the current Chinese wine consumption patterns compared to when Bordeaux was initially
- What is the taboo around women and wine in China?
- How did Suzanne’s end up meeting with particularly interesting characters while researching Thirsty Dragon?
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You can’t talk about the future and not consider China and wine is an interesting prism for looking at that. - Suzanne Mustacich Click to tweet
They say, “These are the top wines you dream of having. And maybe you can’t afford that but you can afford the other 700 million bottles in the meantime.” It’s really a great marketing plan. - Suzanne Mustacich Click to tweet
This classification, the fact that it’s historical, it gives it a lot of weight for the Chinese. In fact, I think that’s one of the reasons they like Bordeaux anyway. They love the history of Bordeaux. - Suzanne Mustacich Click to tweet
My Chinese contacts and my Hong Kong Chinese wine traders tell me that very few Chinese people go home amongst their family and open a bottle of wine. - Suzanne Mustacich Click to tweet
These traders who used to be buying from Bordeaux would just rebuy the wine that had been gifted to the officials and then they would resell it to entrepreneurs, who are then re-gifting it to other officials. So there’s just this glut. - Suzanne Mustacich Click to tweet
About Suzanne Mustacich
Suzanne Mustacich is an author, speaker, journalist, editor and consultant. She is a contributing editor at Wine Spectator magazine and the author of Thirsty Dragon: China’s Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the World’s Best Wines. She has a background as a television producer and screenwriter. She recently finished her first novel.
As a print journalist, she has previously reported for Agence France Presse, Wine Life (China), and Wine Business International. She holds a BA from Yale University in Economics and Political Science, the DUAD enology diploma from the University of Bordeaux and an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Bordeaux with her family.
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Transcript & Takeaways
Welcome to episode 82!
Why is Bordeaux considered the ultimate luxury brand in the world of wine? Why did the Chinese market suddenly start buying Bordeaux wines in the 1980s and 90s? Why does Bordeaux in particular suit the ancient Chinese culture of prestigious gift-giving versus other expensive wines? How does the demand for Bordeaux in China affect both the prices you pay and the styles you drink?
That’s exactly what we’ll learn in this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. We’re chatting with Suzanne Mustacich, the author of the fascinating book Thirsty Dragon: China’s Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the World’s Best Wines.
This conversation first aired on my regular Facebook live video a couple of years ago, so keep that in mind as the context for Suzanne’s comments.
Also, you’ll hear me respond to viewer questions. You can be part of that conversation every second Wednesday at 7 pm eastern.
I’ll include a link as to where you can find us on Facebook as well as the video version of this conversation in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/82.
If you want to discover mouth-watering juicy wines and what to pair with them, sign up for my free, online video wine class the 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
Go to nataliemaclean.com/class and choose a time and date that work for you. I look forward to seeing you inside the class!
Okay, on with the show!
You can also watch the video interview with Suzanne that includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers that weren’t included in this podcast.
Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this chat with Suzanne Mustacich.
Here are my takeaways:
- I admire Suzanne’s journalism approach to her subject: it adds clarity and credibility to a story that has so many threads.
- Suzanne draws interesting parallels between the Chinese market’s thirst for Bordeaux with their interest in minerals with joint ventures, starting in 1979 with Remy Martin.
- It’s fascinating how the Chinese culture of giving gifts to impress the recipient, and particularly business associates, fits perfectly with Bordeaux’s image of being the best wine in the world, complete with the 1855 ranking and price points to prove it. It offers a convenient caste system to match the prestige of the wine to the prestige of the giftee. Giving Bordeaux is a nod to the aspirational lifestyle that the newly moneyed Chinese middle class could quite literally buy into.
- There are also interesting parallels between the Chinese respect for ancient culture and Bordeaux’s historic place in the wine world.
- It’s remarkable that China is the number one market for Bordeaux on volume, but when it comes to value, Hong Kong is by far a more important customer than mainland China. I wonder how this will be impacted by the changes taking place in Hong Kong and the new laws being passed by the Chinese government.
You won’t want to miss next week when I’ll be chatting with Dr. Antonia Mantonakis, a Professor of Marketing and Consumer Psychology at Brock University’s Goodman School of Business in St. Catharine’s, Ontario. She’s also an Associate Fellow of the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), the university’s research institute focused on the Canadian grape and wine industry. She runs behavioural experiments out of the Consumer Perception and Cognition Laboratory. She’ll be chatting with us about celebrity athletes who own wineries, and how the fit between the athlete’s particular sport affects our perception of a wine. We’ll look at examples from the world of golf, wrestling and speed skating. It’s not what you’d expect. Dr. Mantonakis joins me from the university in St Catharine’s next week.
In the meantime, if you missed episode 37 with Tilar Mazzeo, another university professor with a fascinating subject, the Champagne widows of France, go back and take a listen. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
If you liked this episode, please tell a friend about it, especially one who’s interested in the fascinating wine tips that Suzanne shared. You’ll find links to the wines we tasted, a full transcript of our conversation, the video version of this chat and where you can find us on Facebook live every second Wednesday at 7 pm, at nataliemaclean.com/82.
And if you want to connect with me personally, join me in a free online video class at nataliemaclean.com/class.
Thank-you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a great Bordeaux!
Suzanne Mustacich 0:00
They use their 1855 classification. They say these are the top wines. These are the ones you dream of having, and maybe you can’t afford that. But you can afford the other 700 million bottles. And that means it’s a great marketing plan. It works.
Natalie MacLean 0:17
Like the top brands, Chanel, Gucci, whatever. You might see the runway with the outfit you could never buy, but you can afford the scarf or the perfume maybe.
Suzanne Mustacich 0:26
Yeah, and it works. They understand that there’s a desire for luxury goods. As soon as there’s a middle class, there’s a desire for a better lifestyle. And maybe you can’t afford the whole lifestyle, but you can afford part of it. You can afford the vacation home, or even maybe the trip abroad. You can buy that bottle of wine and you can live it for a moment.
Natalie MacLean 0:55
You have a thirst to learn about wine. Do you love stories about one wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations. That’s the blend here on the unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie McLean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 82. Why is Bordeaux considered the ultimate luxury brand in the world of wine? Why did the Chinese market suddenly start buying Bordeaux wines in the 1980s and 90s? Why does Bordeaux in particular suit the ancient Chinese culture of prestige is gift giving versus other expensive wines. And how does the demand for Bordeaux in China affect both the prices you pay and the styles you drink? That’s exactly what we’re going to learn in this episode of The unreserved wine talk podcast we’re chatting with Suzanne must attach the author of the fascinating book thirsty dragon, China’s lost for Bordeaux and the threat to the world’s best wines. This conversation first aired on my regular Facebook Live video show a couple of years ago, so keep that in mind as the context for Suzanne’s comments. Also, you’ll hear me respond to viewer questions. You can be part of that conversation every second Wednesday at 7pm. Eastern. I’ll include a link as to where you can find us on Facebook, as well as the video version of this conversation. All in the show notes at NatalieMacLean.com forward slash 82 If you want to discover mouthwatering juicy wines, including lots of Bordeaux, and what to pair with them, sign up for my free online video wine class, the five wine and food pairing mistakes that can ruin your dinner and how to fix them forever. Go to NatalieMacLean.com forward slash class and choose a time and date that work for you. I look forward to seeing you in the class. Okay, on with the show.
Natalie MacLean 3:32
Our guest is a contributing editor at Wine Spectator magazine and the author of Thirsty Dragon: China’s Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the World’s Best Wines. She has a background as a television producer and screenwriter and she recently finished her first novel. She holds a BA from Yale University in Economics and Political Science and Enology diploma from the University of Bordeaux and Ma in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. And she joins me now from her home in Bordeaux. Welcome Suzanne message. Hello. Hello. Suzanne, tell us a bit about yourself and what sort of triggered the idea for this book. It’s a fascinating topic for a book. Where were you what was the moment when you thought, This is what I need to write about? To
Suzanne Mustacich 4:27
be honest, I was looking to write a book. I knew I wanted to write a book. As you know, there’s a lot of fantastic books written about Bordeaux wine. I was trying to find something that hadn’t been done already. And I’m naturally an investigative reporter. I’m not surely someone digs that was looking for something really interesting to report on and I’ve been in Bordeaux since I have been in Bordeaux since 99. And always in contact with The wine business. I was aware of the Chinese market growing, just because I all my contacts on the plaster Bordeaux on the business side of Bordeaux. And then I just saw it through takeoff. And everyone was talking about this overnight, their call, big success story. And I thought, Wait a minute, it’s a little more complicated than that. I had studied modernising economies and politics. So yeah, so I was, I sort of had this already this approach of looking at at this modernising country and how it was impacting us. So it was a vague idea I had when I started, and I just started investigating, and digging and digging and digging. And I thought, Okay, this is a book. It’s not a long feature story for a magazine. It’s a book that was a character’s to I have to say, I mean, when you’re writing a book, even nonfiction, there has to be a narrative arc. There’s a beginning, middle and end. There have to be turning points. You have to have interesting people. There has to be a climax. You know, there has to be suspense and conflict. And so in a nonfiction book can you can’t make it up. So you do all of this investigation, thinking maybe something will come of it. And then when it all starts to fall into place you think, okay, yeah,
Natalie MacLean 6:19
look, I love that I love the way you framed it.
Suzanne Mustacich 6:22
I think the other thing is that we always are talking about China. Now you can’t talk about the future and not consider China. And wine is an interesting prism for looking at that. We all of us, especially here, I understand why I mean, you could talk about other industries contacting me and saying, oh, gosh, I had a very similar experience. I’m in a completely different, you know, trade, but we had a very similar experience. So really the book it’s a way of looking at business with China and growth in China and modernization and Bordeaux, of course, it’s a different way of looking at it. Is there a sector that you would say closely resembles or aligns with wine whether the effect of Chinese investment has been strong? I think you can just look at even look at minerals you can I’m not an expert in those areas. But when the Chinese decide that either they want to dominate a market, whether through manufacturing or just purchasing that commodity, it’s like it’s just big pivot. And the pressure that you put on that market is myths. You hear about either different commodities being purchased very rapidly by the Chinese. That’s it happens all the time.
Natalie MacLean 7:36
All right. So Suzanne, let’s get into the book itself. What was the most surprising insight that you discovered while writing it?
Suzanne Mustacich 7:45
I think what was interesting was just how little the two sides, the male side, and the Board of sight understood each other. When I started digging into it, I was obviously Much more complex and the reasons the Bordelais felt that the Chinese were drinking wine. And really why China wine was developed in China was very different.
Natalie MacLean 8:11
So it was really complex story, which was interesting that the Chinese suddenly developed a love for Bordeaux or was it speculation and making money? I mean, what was the primary motivation?
Suzanne Mustacich 8:22
And what triggered it? Well, I think it was kind of interesting is that wine was one of the first joint ventures in China. It still is a dynasty. There’s a big wine company called dynasty. And that was a joint venture with Remy Martin. Oh, and when did that start? It was, I think, the second joint venture. So around 79 Oh, wow. Yeah, it was right when China opened up. There was no demand for wine and there was no no one had any money for wine. But at the same time, you have Bordeaux, which they have this very kind of unique Way of commercialising their wines through something called the plaster board, which is a virtual trading platform. There’s no place there’s no, Paul. It exists in their imagination, exactly as they want it to exist. It’s their culture. It’s their business culture. So you have intermediaries, you have the producer. And then you have a broker a core TA and they take 2% on every transaction. And then you have the negotiation, which is a wholesale shipper. And these wholesale shippers, their reason for being is creating markets. So anywhere where they sense that someday someone might have money to buy luxury product. They’re in there, they automatically gravitate. So as soon as China’s opening up, they want to be there. Just a lot of different pieces. There was particular people who dealt in Bordeaux wine from Hong Kong, Hong Kong Chinese, who were part of the very first joint venture Hotel in Beijing and you had to supply wine that was for foreigners who were there on expat packages. So that expense accounts. What did they want to drink these business people when they were they’re living in the Beijing hotel? And what were the Chinese going to use to entertain with? They needed something where they wouldn’t lose faith or they wouldn’t be respected. They would show some sophistication. And Bordeaux with the 1855 classifications very, very easy for people who don’t find anything about wine. Right, right. They know they pick up one of these classified gross, it’s going to be impressive to the business person from London or Ohio or wherever they’re coming from, from Ontario. They go, Oh, that’s a nice bottle. Right? They know what they’re buying, or they feel special. There’s a lot of things it was bought as business practices that put them right there. as China opened up. It was the Chinese Need for gifting need for a gift that was appropriate
Natalie MacLean 11:03
it is in culture. Why is that? Like Where did that come from? As opposed to North America? I mean, sure we give gifts but why is it so central to the Chinese culture, the gifting? Just part
Suzanne Mustacich 11:14
of that culture is how they show favour is not just you gain respect by having chosen the right gift, the appropriate gift, right? That makes sense?
Natalie MacLean 11:24
Yeah, absolutely. And did they sort of match the gift to the recipient? Like you were saying about the 1855 classification? Of course, we have the five top gross income at the top like with the highest maybe government official or foreign dignitary, get the highest growth and then tear by tear go downwards? Yeah, there was definitely
Suzanne Mustacich 11:44
a sense of that you were going to give a first growth to highest person on the chain. Yeah, that’s the person who’s going to get the feet or the Marco or the reom are the Latour that made it very easy. This classification, the backups, historical It gives it a lot of weight for the Chinese effect. I think one of the reasons they like Bordeaux anyway is the history. They love the history of Bordeaux.
Natalie MacLean 12:08
What is it about the history that fascinates the Chinese? I think it’s
Suzanne Mustacich 12:11
because they have such an old culture and ancient culture. And even though it’s gone through, of course, tremendous hardship through the Cultural Revolution and, and war. They have a great respect for old cultures. And even though French culture isn’t what we think of as French culture isn’t as old as ancient Chinese culture. It still has all the there’s royalty, there’s big shout toes. They like all of that. And like all the pomp and circumstance, I love it all. Even when I’ve been to events here I’ve been to a couple of events with the Chinese tycoons have bought an estate and they’ve invited lots of people and I sent one of that and they had rented out the room in a really beautiful grand grand room at the class level. Okay, and they had everybody dressed up in pre revolutionary gowns and men in, you know, in hose. And this is sort of interest. This was their idea. This was their idea of France.
Natalie MacLean 13:17
That was a fascinating cultural clash. I mean with wine at the centre of it, that’s just a great
Suzanne Mustacich 13:25
pivot point for it. Look, there’s Bordeaux that naturally tries to drive to break into a new market in the hope that you’re going to have money to buy luxury goods. And so what they did was they use their 1855 classification. They say these are the top wines. These are the ones you dream of having. And maybe you can’t afford that but you can afford the other 700 million bottles in the meantime. It’s really it’s a great marketing plan. It works.
Natalie MacLean 13:55
The top brands Chanel, Gucci, whatever. You might see the runway with the outfit, you could never buy, but you can afford the scarf or the perfume baby. Exactly.
Suzanne Mustacich 14:05
Yeah. And it works. They understand that there’s a desire for luxury goods. And as soon as there’s a middle class, there’s a desire for a better lifestyle. Right? And maybe you can’t afford the whole lifestyle, you can afford part of it. Right? You can’t afford the vacation home, or even maybe the trip abroad, but you can buy that bottle of wine. And you can live it for a moment. So you’re a great way to put it. Yeah. And so wine is the perfect thing for an aspirational middle class in a place like China particularly, which was just hungry and thirsty for new products. Yeah, sophisticated products. And that’s what wine was.
Natalie MacLean 14:50
I love how that all came together to create that perfect storm. So let’s talk about how dependent is Bordeaux on the Chinese The market but also the Chinese investors today, like give us some facts and figures around that.
Suzanne Mustacich 15:06
I got a few facts for you. So if you go back to 2008, because that this was a pivot point, this is when the duty dropped in Hong Kong, the suddenly Hong Kong becomes Think of it as a platform, a shipping logistics platform for expensive wine. So the wine goes into Hong Kong, and then it makes its way into the mainland without those duties on it. So, in 2008, that’s when it really kind of started to pick up that’s when we really noticed the Chinese bind to the Chinese market was worth 53 million euros and about 9 million bottles wine. Today, it’s worth 58 million bottles. So in 10 years, it was 9,000,000,002 58 million. And it was worth 53 million euros and now it’s 311 million.
Natalie MacLean 15:57
So it’s an important market. Well
Suzanne Mustacich 16:00
Half of Bordeaux wine is exported and the Chinese market is 23% in volume. Now interestingly Hong Kong is where the most expensive per bottle wine goes, right? So, in 2008, it was worth 75 million euros Okay, and 4.5 million bottles of wine. So a quarter more in value than China was but half the number of bottles. expensive wine is always wanted to Hong Kong. Right today Hong Kong alone is worth more than Mainland China. For far fewer bottles 10 million bottles worth 327 million euros.
Natalie MacLean 16:42
Wow. Because it’s a business capital and they’re just obviously
Suzanne Mustacich 16:46
because you pay no because the import duties are based on value, not volume, okay in China. So if you’re going to spend ordering expensive wine, you’re going to try to avoid those duties. Right, yeah, because the key point is not that big of a difference, a cheap price is going to go straight in, right? But the expensive wise is based on value, not volume, which in most countries is based on volume, right? There’s a duty per bottle on the volume. This has value. So all the expensive wines go into Hong Kong, and then they’re couriered or put in a truck or however they go into into the mainland, huh? Wow. So that’s why the top market value is Hong Kong. Second is China Mainland China. Okay. And third is the US. Again, volume, it’s China than the US and then Belgium. And then UK. So it’s volume Hong Kong is isn’t that much for volume. It’s not a big market for volume but values. It’s number one. Sure. And did any of this also trigger because of maybe as American decline in demand for Bordeaux.
Natalie MacLean 18:03
Yeah, it all happened at
Suzanne Mustacich 18:04
the same time around 2008. So we have the mortgage crisis. We have the banking crisis. As you remember, it was a terrible time. banks were folding, restaurants were closing, business entertainment definitely dry that people didn’t have any money. They’re losing their homes. The American market was in a terrible crisis and there was never it was just reverberating around the globe. Right. So Bordeaux has this new vintage coming on the market, the 2008 and 2009. their customers were folding couldn’t buy. So the 2008 which was great vintage came up very, very low. The price came out very low. When the remember Bordeaux sells its wine every spring. That the top the most expensive wines are sold as a futures commodity in the spring. So they release it onto the market, very low price. So if you had any money, it was a good time to buy The Chinese buyers are just starting coming into the market at this point. The people who bought made a big profit because the prices rebounded very quickly. And it was just at the time when middle class spending was picking up. There were more and more real estate tycoons and everything in China. And they were looking for things to buy and people were making money on board. Oh, that was the word. So all these speculators arrived. But part of the reason that happened is because the Americans had been backing off from the board. Oh, when it comes to the Bordeaux market, I mean, that the high end Bordeaux market since 2005, because the prices it just escalated and escalated. And the traditional markets, like the American market weren’t following that price escalation. And the Chinese hadn’t really figured that they just hadn’t figured that out. That other people were backing off saying these prices are crazy. Even at that point, there was a The transparency on the internet. So it created a speculative bubble. And the prices just went out of the roof. And people in New York weren’t buying people who were buying just to sell to China. And it just grew and grew and grew and then burst getting just us a very, very volatile time. It’s time to even through all of that. So then there was a things drop, and then they came up, demand grew and grew again till 2017. And now it’s dropped last year. And what happens is, it’s a very volatile market, because changes the government can change so quickly in terms of consumer demand.
Natalie MacLean 20:43
How does that work?
Suzanne Mustacich 20:45
Well, say for instance, when President Xi came to power, there was a crack or just before he came to power, there was started to be this crackdown on free spending public officials public officials living large on public money, so big bank who has extravagant banquets and extravagant entertaining, and one of the things that were cracking down on was expensive alcohol, specifically expensive alcohol. So that was like a word to all of those, not only the entrepreneurs who were courting the officials, but the officials who were also throwing their banquets. That no more expensive alcohol. It would be politically unwise to be seen with expensive alcohol. Hmm, well, so then suddenly, you have no demand because people aren’t drinking the wine. By and large, they’re not drinking it. They’re gifting it. I can remember talking to this really interesting couple of traders, husband and wife, who trade in all different kinds of things. And wine was one of them. It’s through them. They’ve really learned a lot about how money get out. They got cash out of China and I remember shopping with them one time in Paris and they were just again, in less than an hour they spent only over 100,000 just in watches. We just needed to get through the cash. Wow. And also it was interesting I’ve through them and through other people about the gifts you Francis had for Governor’s wife. You couldn’t give a Louis Vuitton bag it had to be Ms. There was no point showing up with anything but Ms. Like how many ms bags mushy have by now it didn’t matter, probably as a whole walk in closet for them. It was just really very interesting. And this traders had quite a network for distributing through their business clients for other products they sold. I saw them fairly frequently. So I was asking about how much wine they were buying. This will actually we don’t really need to buy any because we’re rebind so the government officials would receive cases of wine every week cases in cases Why? Well, they didn’t drink it. And they didn’t really need it. So they would sell it back. So these traders who were used to be buying from Bordeaux, which is rebuy the wine that had been gifted to the officials, and then they would resell it to entrepreneurs, who are redefining it to other officials, so it’s just so there’s this plet you can just imagine this huge glut in our cabinet and drinking it right isn’t really an option.
Suzanne Mustacich 23:30
All that can some revisit
Natalie MacLean 23:32
exactly and if all this re gifting is going on, but also are there large, vast stores of
Suzanne Mustacich 23:39
Natalie MacLean 23:40
Yeah. So is that going to eventually crash the market for boring? Oh, yeah.
Suzanne Mustacich 23:44
It was a couple things is the one portal got too greedy and they really the prices just went up and up and up and up and nobody else was following except for the Chinese. And then the Chinese watch the prices start to drop. It happened also the same time. As the wrapped anti pain started, it was the perfect storm, you might say that crushed it.
Natalie MacLean 24:06
And this anti graft campaign was that inside China or inside China,
Suzanne Mustacich 24:11
yeah. And it’s really had a huge impact. So the good thing is that there’s less emphasis on the top top end wines, most expensive wines. And there’s more of the middle range wines being shipped, and hopefully being consumed. As younger wine make wine consumers are coming into the market, younger people who are just generally trying wine the way they try other products. And they buy online, which is terrific. And they try watch all over the world. They’re very curious. I think they’re very like North American wine consumers, I think and that’s, oh, well, they’re open to any wine region was a curiosity factor. So I think Yeah, I’ll try that one. I’ve never heard of it did They even made wine. Okay, I’ll try that.
Natalie MacLean 25:02
So it’s it’s just an old stereotype that the Chinese mix Pepsi Cola or coke with Bordeaux.
Suzanne Mustacich 25:08
It was because they don’t like it. They thought they didn’t give it. Yeah, it’s like the old wine cooler. They make wine coolers with their wine, right? They add some seven up or something to make it a wine cooler. I think very few, actually really like wine. And that’s what my Chinese contacts Tell me and my Hong Kong Chinese wine traders tell me is that very few Chinese people go home amongst their family, an open ball of wine,
Natalie MacLean 25:38
right? Because they didn’t grow up with it. It’s not part of their culture, just like it isn’t for Northern latitude. North America or European it’s a beer or whiskey culture purchased with
Suzanne Mustacich 25:49
our cultures too. It’s hard liquor and beer.
Natalie MacLean 25:53
Exactly. And I’ve even heard there could be an enzyme or something that is difficult to process wine. Some Asian consumers. I’m not sure I don’t know all the science but so yeah, so they weren’t amenable, but they still wanted to be curious and to try these wines.
Suzanne Mustacich 26:11
And now younger people are in their 20s starting with wine, because it’s considered kind of international, sophisticated urban being to do so. They’re likely to be what I was called real wine drinkers. Right? Okay. Okay. But all but I think middle aged and older. No, they didn’t grow up with it. And it’s really frowned upon for women.
Natalie MacLean 26:37
Is it still? Yeah, yeah. And boys,
Suzanne Mustacich 26:40
traditional age and older. Yeah, it’s, it’s frowned upon. Wow. It’s pretty racy. So you know, when I talk to young Chinese women, I said, What are your family? Think about you work in the wine business. My mother thinks it’s really racy thing to do. We don’t talk about it. Wow. Wow. Yeah, that’s Yeah, that same woman, interestingly enough, said to me, which was kind of you expect her so to have a conversation she was my grandmother found feet. My mother survived Cultural Revolution. And I have now you know, an apartment in Bordeaux. It’s just how can we speak to each other?
Natalie MacLean 27:18
So yeah, what a summary. Oh my goodness. Super fast. Suzanne. I haven’t even covered Any other questions. I got to. I mean, I was listening. But I just so fascinating. I still want to dig into the counterfeiting usually. Yeah, yeah. Let’s talk. Let’s talk about that. Okay. So
Suzanne Mustacich 27:37
what I think was one of the funnest chapters to write in the book. Okay, because I had some really interesting things to do. I get to meet interesting people. Yeah. And for anyone who reads the book, I will say that the people who are in it, are there because they ended up being the people who could tell the story, the best, very colourful characters. Yeah, very colourful people. Weren’t chosen because they’re my friends or anything like that. It really came through reporting the investigation that these are the best people to tell the story. I had a hard time explaining to them that it was narrative, not fiction, and it should be like a, you know, a exciting novel. And I think that you know, they were all pleased. They were all surprised, pleasantly surprised, I would say I think they thought it was a very kind of dry business book. And I kept telling them No, no, you’re gonna be like, you’re a character on the page and they’re like, Oh, yeah, okay, that’ll be fine so that they can they really have no idea so anyway, I think one person though, who really had two people I’d say who have really had a sense of adventure and I think they’re tremendous. Meet them one was the investigator Nick Mark Hartman, this interview and he was a gator. Well, and I was really surprised if he met with me first of all, it was a little bit Cloak and Dagger how we met
Natalie MacLean 28:53
Really? Well I can’t I know Raj. Deep Throat style though.
Suzanne Mustacich 28:59
was in a pub. England, but it was suitable. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I flew over there. And he showed me some tools of the trade and everything. And I was lucky that he was, I can’t believe really I had to kind of dig to find him find a contact with him. And I was really surprised when he replied, and he was willing to meet with me.
Natalie MacLean 29:20
And he’s a trail of the counterfeiters, like he’s,
Suzanne Mustacich 29:23
you know, this is what he does. This is what he’s done for over 30 years, is investigates IP infringement counterfeiting in China, this is what he does. So I was lucky that it was sort of the end of his his his career. So he was willing to share a lot of information. And we didn’t know who’s going to use his real name. Until right up. At the point of, we got to do publication just before we’re gonna finalise the book. We’ve given him the option and he’s a lawyer. He was the only person that I Without any part of the book before publication, but I just thought, No, let’s just let him see the chapter about him. And it was funny he only changed. Like chase like three words. Really? Which I thought yeah, yeah, okay, so what not No, no and there weren’t even one I would have guessed Yeah. Okay, so what were those three words?
Natalie MacLean 30:26
But they were not what your it was all this right? You can’t tell us because it’s like he didn’t want them in there. Okay, so
Suzanne Mustacich 30:32
exactly, no, but for instance, another this is similar to something like this. It seems so innocuous without really. And for instance, I was writing about a very famous winemaker and his estranged wife. They don’t live together. He lives with his mistress. I’m like, it’s an estranged wife. Right. So I said, a strange wife. And I was told through the legal review of the book that you might not take that very well. I thought it was What else do what else to call it? And so, and so I called I know, his estranged wife very well. So I just called her up and said, so what? How would you like me to phrase this? She’s no, I was like, Okay. So I just, I did that. So things like that you don’t, sometimes as a word where you you see something you feel you’re being very not judgmental, just ominous just sort of plain speaking, you know. And it might be something that someone’s sensitive about. Interesting. Wow. But Nick Bart was really great because he just spent his time undercover in disguise, dealing with these counterfeiters, so he would go in and he has an appearance that could be so many different nationalities. So I said, Yeah, he really blends in. Yeah, he could be a lot of different nationalities. And he would go in as a wealthy guy. I’m looking to do a deal needing some wines. And the same people who might be producing the legitimate wines are also counterfeiting. And what he could really talk about is how the counterfeiters went from being sort of sloppy, obvious fakes, to very sophisticated, very, very sophisticated. And that’s when things are worrisome.
Natalie MacLean 32:25
What changed in the sophistication level, what was one indication that they had become really sophisticated,
Suzanne Mustacich 32:31
they stopped making really stupid mistakes on the label, for instance, spellings, they just would take a real label and just change a few things. And that’s the main one and the bottles, the packaging the way to the bottle, everything they had really studied it, really, really studied it. And remember this is done in a small factory of bodily lies. This isn’t some kind of mom and pop kind of thing. This is recognised This is a business plan. And if you shut them down, they don’t go suddenly go into something honest. I mean, this is what they do they counterfeit things. Wow. And if it’s not wine, it will be something else. That’s quite so they counterfeit. Yeah. So they go to the printer their printers to print legitimate white labels and print for the counterfeiters to they print whatever needs to be printed. Yes, Suzanne, we have to have a part two. Where can we reach you? what’s your website? Where can we buy your book? My website is Susan is my name Suzanne muster search.com or on Twitter people contact me through Twitter to that’s really easy. And there’s just as much to search and Amazon or any online
Natalie MacLean 33:46
retailer has the book and we’ll put all these links in the blog post that we created on the site. Suzanne, thank you so much. This was a great chat. I really appreciate your time and yeah, we have To talk again because I have to ask you the other 56 questions.
Suzanne Mustacich 34:04
Okay, bye bye.
Natalie MacLean 34:14
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this chat with Suzanne musta sit. Here are my takeaways. Number one, I admire Suzanne’s journalistic approach to her subject. It adds real clarity and credibility to a story that has so many threads. Number two, Suzanne draws interesting parallels between the Chinese markets thirst for Wardell with their interest in mineral rights and lands. This started in the wine world with joint ventures in 1979 with Ronnie Martin of France. Number three, it’s fascinating how the Chinese culture of giving gifts to impress the recipient and particularly business associates, fits perfectly with Bordeaux’s image of being the best wine in World, complete with the 1855 ranking and price points to prove it. It offers a convenient caste system to match the prestige of the wine to the prestige of the gift de giving Bordeaux is also a nod to the aspirational lifestyle of the newly money Chinese middle class. It was something they could quite literally buy into. Number four, there are also interesting parallels between the Chinese respect for ancient culture and Bordeaux’s historic place in the wine world. And number five, it’s remarkable that China is the number one market for Bordeaux on volume. But when it comes to value, Hong Kong is a far more important customer versus Mainland China. I wonder how this will be impacted with the changes taking place in Hong Kong now, especially the new laws that are being passed by the Chinese government. You won’t want to miss next week when we’ll be chatting with Dr. Antonia menten Agus Professor of Marketing and consumer psychology at Brock University’s Goodman School of Business in St. catharines, Ontario. She also works with the cool climate enology and viticultural Institute, Kogi. The university’s Research Institute focused on the Canadian grape and wine industry. She runs these really fascinating behavioural experiments out of the consumer perception and cognition laboratory, and she’s going to be chatting with us about celebrity athletes who own wineries and how the fit between the athletes particular sport affects our perception of the wine. We’ll look at examples from the worlds of golf, wrestling and speedskating. And it’s not what you’d expect. Dr. Mountain Agus joins me from the University in St. catharines next week. In the meantime, if you missed Episode 37 with Tilar Mazzeo, another university professor with a fascinating subject, the champagne widows Friends, think the Pico and company go back and take a listen to that episode. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite
Tilar Mazzeo 37:10
and some girlfriends and I agree that buco is our favourite champagne and so we used to get together and drink a bottle of wine of an evening. have our husbands drive us home. We were talking one day and I remember that lovin French’s widow. And it really started with a question where I said, well, was there really a widow Clicquot and ended up doing research and found this amazing story about a woman not only became history’s first international businesswoman, but who invented a process which I know we’ll talk about a little bit called Renoir’s that is still used in the wine industry today. And it was really the thing that moved champagne from being a luxury product that was so expensive that only the kings and queens of France could afford it to a luxury product that those of us who are lucky have a weekend can take a sip of
Natalie MacLean 38:02
If you liked today’s episode, please tell a friend about it, especially one who’s interested in the fascinating wine tips that Suzanne shared. You’ll find links to the wines we tasted a full transcript of our conversation, the video version of this chat, and where you can find us on Facebook Live every second Wednesday at 7pm that’s all in the show notes and NatalieMacLean.com forward slash 82. And if you want to connect with me personally, join me in a free online video class at NatalieMacLean.com forward slash class. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps of Bordeaux.
Natalie MacLean 38:50
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMacLean.com forward slash subscribe, maybe here next week Cheers.